Part 3 of the PRT series featuring the De La Ossa family focuses on the mid-twentieth century life of another branch of the Antonio and Carolina De La Ossa family in the San Rafael Valley.
The second child of Armida and Abel, Arnulfo (Arnie), born in Lochiel in 1938, has fond memories of his childhood in the Valley. For years, they lived in the two-bedroom “rock house” between Lochiel and Washington Camp. Such family togetherness was alleviated a bit when the three sons were deemed old enough to sleep out in a bunkhouse on their own.
“Our parents, Armida and Abel, were very affectionate, especially our mother. We were well cared for and, of course, reprimanded when we were wrong. Mom’s parents lived down in Santa Cruz (Mexico) and we often piled into the truck and drove down there for family celebrations at our grandparents’ home, sometimes spending the night,” Arnie recounted.
He also recalls big celebrations in Lochiel, including informal horse racing and baseball games. A lot of activity took place under the big cottonwood tree that is known to all the family. It is where his brother Onofre’s funeral was held in 2012, and from it one can see the Lochiel Chapel and the family cemetery on the hilltop. Cemetery cleanups are held annually. According to Onofre’s wife, Maureen De La Ossa, “the De La Ossas have always looked for excuses to get together for a beer and a hot dog.” Twice a year, they can be spotted cleaning up the section of Highway 82 they adopted the year Ono died.
Of their schooling, Arnie said, “My siblings and I went to the Washington Camp School, though I went to first grade at Lochiel. Of course, we spoke Spanish at home, and our first exposure to English was when we went off to first grade. I remember Mrs. Woods, our very kind teacher for several years at the one-room schoolhouse. All our teachers treated us like we were their own. She would bring each class up to her desk, give us our lesson, then call up the next class. She walked to school just like we did, about a mile or so. The older boys would keep the wood stove stoked in the winter from a big woodpile out back.” After completing school there, the kids rode the bus into Patagonia.
“We’d cowboy with my dad. There was little fencing – the cattle could run from Washington Camp to the top of the mountain on the way to Nogales. We had to constantly keep checking on them. We spent most of our free time riding the hills, until we were old enough to get into trouble in Lochiel.” Arnie did not elaborate.
“When it was time to sell the cows, we’d drive them to the corrals and a truck would pick up the calves and the old cows and transport them to the shipping pens in Patagonia to be transported to Tombstone and beyond. There was a turntable right across from the Wagon Wheel Saloon where they’d turn the engine around,” he said.
After graduating from Patagonia High School, Arnie left for the Navy. He served in the SeaBees, the Navy’s construction brigade, in Alaska and Okinawa. They turned what had been just a landing site during World War II into an airbase, building barracks, hangars, and the first heliport base. “I loved that kind of work,” he said.
“When I returned in 1960, I hired on at the Vaca Ranch. I married Marsha Beach, who I’d met in high school, and we lived in a little house out there. I loved cowboying. At that time, there was a foreman, a handyman and me for 800 mother cows. My main job was treating screwworm, a disease that could kill the young calves. We’d ride out looking for calves kicking at their bellies, then tie them down and pour medicine on the wounds they had. We’d keep on checking on them for several days after that,” he recounted.
“Every so often we’d drive into Patagonia to get supplies, and Marsha would check out a big pile of books from the library. I knew she wanted more than what life out there could offer, that she really wanted to go to college and become a teacher. So, in 1964, we moved to Tucson, where I worked for the Department of Transportation for the rest of my career,” he said. “All those skills I got in the Navy really prepared me for that work.”
They scraped together enough to pay Marsha’s tuition, and she graduated with a degree in English, after which she taught junior high and high school English for 12 years. Marsha died suddenly after being struck by a car while walking near their home in 1982. Their daughter, Dara, was 18 years old.
Later, Arnie met Jolene Brown, who worked, and still works, for ADOT. They were married in 1985 and have another daughter, Samantha. They live in North Tucson. Jolene was comfortable in the ranching and rodeo world, having spent summers at her grandparents’ ranch in Colorado. “I always thought my sister would be the one to marry a cowboy, but it was me,” she said.
Jolene was welcomed readily into the family. “Over the years, we’ve spent so much time in the area. For years, we were down there three times a month. Arnie participated with Maureen and Ono and their dad Abel running the roping club in Sonoita. Sam competed in 4H beef and horse events, including barrel racing and pole bending. We’d attend the yearly cemetery cleanup followed by a picnic under the cottonwood in Lochiel and family barbecues at Armida and Abel’s home in Patagonia. The family will always be a big part of our lives.”
This series has followed the De La Ossa family from 1880 to the present. One of the earliest tales in the family history is of Carolina telling Antonio she was ready to settle down right where they had landed in the San Rafael Valley, after trekking from California. This was the place! And from that decision 140 years ago, many hundreds (or more) De La Ossas have made their lives and raised their families in Santa Cruz County and beyond.